Firstly, if you are not entirely sure what the abbreviation USP stands for, here is a great definition:
A feature or characteristic of a product, service, etc. that distinguishes it from others of a similar nature and makes it more appealing.
Your school’s USP therefore, consists of the qualities and characteristics that are unique to YOUR school and that make your school special. Your USP should help your school to stand out from the competition in your area – on your website and in your promotional material and prospectuses.
When you start to identify and promote your school’s USP, you need to demonstrate that your school meets the usual expected criteria from a school as well – your school may have the largest indoor swimming pool in the country, for example, but you need to show that your students achieve great academic results and that you offer a comprehensive timetable of extra-curricular activities as well.
Don’t fall into the trap of plucking characteristics, that you think are ideal, out of the ether to make your school look great. Your USP should genuinely, and accurately, reflect what is brilliant and different about your school.
It is also important to remember that your school cannot be all things to all people, and that what is important to one parent, will not necessarily be important to another and this must be top of mind when you are trying to identify your school’s USP.
Once you have identified your USP, whoever it is that’s responsible for producing your school’s marketing collateral, should chat to a design company such as Blue Apple Education, to work out how best to highlight your USP and use them in your school’s marketing material. The design company will help you with everything from the wording to format, to style, and images – all with the aim of attracting prospective parents and pupils to your school.
The following are some areas that may help you identify your school’s USP.
Your school’s history and background
Looking at your school’s history and background is a great place to start looking for your USP…
For example, you can showcase your fabulous surroundings and buildings through high-quality photography to emphasise the school’s aesthetic appeal.
If your school’s physical attributes are less impressive, you can look at promoting its particular history and background, such as how long the school has been around or what was happening at the time it was founded.
Perhaps your school has recently undergone new development or there are plans in place to make future changes.
Whatever you decide is important, your USP must show what is interesting about your school, whether it’s emphasising that it’s set in 12 acres of beautiful land or is surrounded by ancient woodland!
Should you need it, a good design company, with an understanding of the educational context, will be able to help you write appropriate copy and will show your school in the best possible light.
Your school’s local community and area
If your school has a positive profile and presence in your local community, this provides an opportunity for you to promote it in local newspaper articles, and through photographs, recommendations, and awards.
Try and view your school as a big part of the wider community and get involved in local events. Connect with local businesses, organisations, and schools and colleges. Some schools encourage their pupils to volunteer at local old people’s homes for a couple of hours a week for example.
Perhaps consider building a long-term relationship with a local charity that fits the ethos and style of your school and as a school get involved with fundraising events for that charity – such as an annual concert, play, or fair. Some large charities encourage collaborations with schools and invite them to get involved beyond perhaps just selling red noses and wearing them to school once a year!
All of these things help to create a sense of involvement in the wider community and encourage children to think outside of the four walls of the school, to consider others in their local area, to get out into the community, and to take part.
Your school’s special features
There is a vast range of different types of schools available for prospective parents, which can lead to confusion.
Rather than assuming that parents understand the differences and significance of school categories such as Academy Schools, Free Schools or Community Schools, it’s important to emphasise what special teaching facilities or specialist physical facilities your school provides.
As it has probably been a long time since a prospective parent has been at school, you should include a short definition of your school, without overemphasising it, unless your type of school is really unique such as a Rudolf Steiner school – for the uninitiated, Steiner schools subscribe to a pedagogy developed by Rudolph Steiner, an Austrian writer with eccentric views on child development. It translates into allowing pupils to learn at their own pace, in many cases not being taught to read or write (until years after children in conventional schools in the UK.)
Of course, specialist schools should highlight what their specialism is, emphasising what their status is in terms of their teaching, school environment or facilities. Parents and students will obviously want to know that even though a school specialises in engineering for example, that their arty child will still be able to achieve their potential. Obviously, the difference between a specialist art school and a specialist drama school should be clear to everyone.
Your school community
What builds a school community is what is outside of the lessons, such as shared beliefs, purposes, aims, and pursuits – students and teachers should be on the same page.
Prospective parents should get a feel for a school when trying to decide which school to send their child to and they should look at what the school has to offer in terms of extra-curricular activities, student-led events, and societies, etc.
The best advertisement for your school is happy children who talk about their school community with positivity and your school can promote this through consultation and feedback as well as through quotes and images.
A design company will be able to help your school do this, if you don’t have this in place already. The design agency can advise you about what might help to enhance your school community and how you can promote it in the future.
In addition, don’t be afraid to show examples of students who have struggled in some areas of school. You can use the examples as an opportunity to showcase how your school supports students and helps them to overcome problems.
Some schools have specific political, philosophical, or religious affiliations at their core, and their timetables (particularly with regards to religious practices such as prayer), teaching styles, parental involvement, and discipline will reflect this.
However, all schools will benefit from establishing what is important and what is best for their students – identifying their visions, values, and missions for example.
If your school does not have a clear philosophy, you could seek advice from a design agency such as ours, that will work with you to establish what your values, missions and desired outcomes etc. are. This will not only help to motivate your team of staff, parents, governing bodies, and of course students, but will also provide your school with more information to add to your website, to strengthen your school and ultimately to engage the interest of prospective parents.
Parents need assurance that their child will be happy and cared for at school, as well as encouraged to reach their academic potential and your marketing material, such as your prospectus, should reflect this.
It’s comparatively simple to produce generic marketing material that is well designed and looks good, however, you have to ensure that you stand out in this competitive school marketplace, that your school will appeal to everyone, however young or old, now and in the future, and that parents and students feel they have made the right choice.
So, you need to choose your marketing material carefully – paying attention to the word content, images, themes, and formatting to make your school stand out.
Everyone in the school needs to understand what the school stands for and how it is unique and they must be able to express it. What is particularly crucial though, is that having identified and promoted your school’s USP, you must ensure your school puts into practice, everything that it preaches!
We hope that the above has been of interest to you. Good luck identifying your school’s USP – and implementing it to become the most sought-after school in your area!
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Blue Apple Education are School Communication and Design Experts. We believe each and every school is remarkable and unique in some way. We see it as our duty to unearth what this is and to convey the essence of this both beautifully and convincingly.
We’d love to Unearth Your Remarkable, contact Mark Davis at [email protected] or call 0330 223 0766.